EMF Guidelines

There are recommended EMF exposure limits in place at a European Level. The European Commission 1999 Recommendation (1999/519/EC) sets out strict limits for exposure of the public which apply to all frequencies in the range 0 Hz to 300 GHz. This Recommendation, which is non-binding for Member States, is based on guidelines by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP), issued in 1998 (ICNIRP, 1998) and re-confirmed in 2009 (ICNIRP, 2009). ICNIRP, a publicly-funded, non-governmental organisation recognised by the World Health Organization (WHO), evaluates the scientific peer-review literature on health effects from EMF exposure and produces recommendations on exposure limits or reference levels. After reviewing the most up-to-date scientific literature, the 1998 guidelines were reviewed, including a public consultation. New guidelines have been issued for frequencies below 100 kHz (ICNIRP, 2010) and above 100 kHz (ICNIRP, 2020). These latter guidelines are specific for radio frequencies, including those used and envisaged for 5G.

ICNIRP guidelines are based on effects of short-term exposure to high EMF levels since available evidence on potential detrimental effects from low-level, long-term exposure is considered insufficient to establish quantitative limits. The current scientific evidence does not support long-term health effects, such a cancer, due to exposure to EMF, of either low or high frequency. Therefore, well-known short-term acute effects are used in the guidelines to describe threshold limits that could potentially lead to well-known adverse biological effects. The lowest threshold limit is further reduced to derive the reference levels for human exposure. For example, ICNIRP uses a reduction factor of 10 to derive the occupational limits for workers, and a factor of 50 for public exposure. In other words, the exposure reference levels for the public are 50 times below the level of EMF known to cause adverse biological effects. In most circumstances, public exposure to EMF is usually far below these general public reference levels.

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